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Cork Vs Screw Cap

Why the swing to screw caps?

by Michael Davey © 2010

There are two reasons, firstly due to the amount of wine affected by cork taint and secondly the random oxidization of wines under cork.

Cork taint from 2,4,6 – Trichoroanisole (TCA) is the winemakers’ enemy. There are varying reports of the percentage of wine affected by TCA but the average reported seems to be in the 5 to 10 % range. TCA is a compound formed when bleaching agents used to sanitise the cork reacts with mould already in the cork. The result is a very unpleasant aroma, described as mouldy cardboard, wet rotting carpet and even wet dog! Not only is the nose unpleasant but the wine will also taste mouldy, flat and devoid of fruit flavours.

It does not take much TCA to be present for we human’s to detect. As little a dilution as three parts per trillion can get up our noses!

One thing to remember when tasting a wine and you think it “corked”: go with your first impression as our olfactory system has a quick habituation to TCA and the taint will become less obvious with consequent sniffs. Another good thing to remember if you are a male and dubious about the wine you are tasting, ask a female their opinion as they possess a far more sensitive olfactory system than males.

Random oxidisation/ageing is the other problem with corks, notable in wine that has been cellared for a few years. Out of a dozen bottles of the same wine you have carefully cellared to their optimum drinking age you may never quite get two the same.

For example we recently started drinking an early nineties Coonawarra red from our cellar and quickly realised after a number of bottles (over the course of a week or two!) just how different they were. Some of the bottles were brilliant; however some were just a little dull, lacking the vitality of the good ones. All drinkable, some beautiful and some ran out of legs very quickly. Opening two bottles one night, tasting them and then trying them again 24 hours later, was an eye opener. The first bottle we used this procedure with was flat, fruitless and lifeless after 24 hours. The second bottle was still beautiful drinking after 24 hours. Screw caps (or Stelvin caps) eliminate the possibility of cork taint, and of random oxidization and aging of your wine.

The jury seems to still be out on how wines age over an extended period under screw cap but according to winemakers they do age - just not as rapidly. Wines stay fresher and have more vibrancy under screw cap when tasted alongside the same wine under cork.

The only problem I keep encountering with screw caps is 50% of the population insist on screwing the cap back on the bottle after they pour a glass. Get over it - it isn’t soft drink, it’s wine and needs to breathe like we do!

If you’re interested in purchasing red wine Michael Davey from WineSeek can help. Visit http://www.wineseek.com.au for a great selection of Australian and international wines at remarkable prices.

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